Pyongyang sees major power change

Updated: 2013-12-10 07:44

By Zhou Wa (China Daily)

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Relations with neighbors will be unaffected despite removal of leader's uncle

The purge of the powerful uncle of Pyongyang's top leader will not shake up the regional situation nor immediately affect the country's ties with Beijing, analysts said on Monday.

Jang Song-thaek, widely reported as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's second in command, was removed from all of his posts and from the ruling Workers' Party of Korea for his "anti-Party and counterrevolutionary crime", the country's official news agency KCNA said.

"The purge shows a rearrangement of power is happening and there will be more personnel changes in the country's top power structure," said Wang Junsheng, a researcher in East Asian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"But the move isn't likely to change the situation in the region, because Pyongyang's foreign policies represent a continuity since the young leader Kim Jong-un took office two years ago," Wang said.

As Kim appears to have consolidated his power, there is no reason for him to increase the tension on the Korean Peninsula at the moment, he said.

"Pyongyang's foreign policy shows a stable trend this year. It is not so likely that Kim Jong-un will change its main China policy in the near future," Wang said.

But Zhu Feng, a professor of international affairs at Peking University, said Pyongyang's future moves should be closely tracked to assess the power struggle's impact on the region.

Zhu also said the possibility cannot be ruled out that the personnel change will influence cooperation between China and the DPRK.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei described the fall of Jang as an "internal affair", saying China hopes to see national stability, economic development and the happiness of the people in the DPRK.

"As a friendly neighbor ... China will stay committed to promoting the traditionally friendly relationship of cooperation with the DPRK," Hong said.

The Unification Ministry of the Republic of Korea said on Monday that Seoul, with several possibilities in mind, was more closely monitoring the situation in its neighbor's inner circle and external relations.

The 67-year-old Jang, who was married to Kim's aunt, was vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission and secretary of the WPK administration department, a position considered second only to that of the supreme leader.

He used to be in charge of economic affairs of the country and led two cooperation projects between China and the DPRK.

Jang used to play an important role in the DPRK's political circles.

Zhu Feng from Peking University said Jang's fall sends a signal that the DPRK might adjust its China policy.

But Chen Qi, a professor of international affairs at Tsinghua University, called the case an "internal political struggle", saying that China-DPRK ties will likely remain stable because the DPRK needs China to support its economic development.

Instead of only implementing "military-first politics", Pyongyang is now carrying out parallel strategies of "military-first politics" and economic development, Chen said.

KCNA said in a report following the ruling party's enlarged meeting on Sunday that Jang and his followers committed criminal acts and did tremendous harm to the party and revolution.

According to the report, Jang abused his power and challenged the "sole leadership system", and had gravely hindered the role of the Cabinet by taking control of major economic development sectors.

Jang and his followers are also accused of violating the party's guiding principles, and disobeying "the order issued by the supreme commander of the Korean People's Army", according to the KCNA report said.

The report also said Jang "had improper relations with several women and was wined and dined at back parlors of deluxe restaurants", becoming "affected by the capitalist way of living".

Liao Die'er contributed to this story.